Dead or alive

by Tulasi-Priya on Tuesday 6 December 2011

Today is my birthday. I haven’t paid much attention to my birthday in years, at times forgetting all about it until I close my eyes for sleep, then think: oh yeah.  But for some reason it keeps firing in my mind, like an engine that doesn’t shut off for a bit, even after you pull the key from the ignition.

Today I went to yoga, listened to an NPR program about cancer survival rates, returned a wrong-size curtain to Wal-mart, read from the biography of Isak Dinesen,, and finished off a can of Reddi-Whip® as a midnight snack. I also had a surprise: an old friend dropped by. She is a semi-renunciate, an ecclesiastical authority, and one of the founding members of the Hare Krishna movement. Over sixty, HIV-positive (and almost died of AIDS around twenty years ago), she travels constantly, almost indefatigable, certainly indomitable.  I consider her a kind of guru, although I could never hope to emulate her dedication. She had been on the road today for about eight hours with her assistant, a laughing young South African woman in a lime-green sari. On the spur of the moment they dropped by our place for a late lunch on the way to one of Mother Malati’s ecclesiastical assignments. We ate quinoa soup, then walked on the beach. Even after all the driving, with still two more hours on the road ahead of her, she tramped briskly across the sand, startling flocks of terns to flight as she passed.

So I think I now know why I’m thinking about my birthday. As it has been said, one who is born is sure to die (and one who dies will be reborn, according to Bhagavad-gita). I’m that much closer to death. What else is new? My dear ascetic friend has been so much closer, and yet I know of no one more full of life.

For that matter, as I was reading today, Isak Dinesen struggled through spinal syphilis and its related anorexia, gastric ulcers, and depression for close to thirty years, yet summoned the energy to write some of the most enthralling literature I’ve ever come across.

And don’t get me started on Flannery O’Connor: cranking out the pages on her freaking death bed, virtually up to her last breath. If she was conscious, she was writing.

I’m not trying to guilt myself out, here. It’s just that I need to remind myself that I’m no less closer to death than Flannery or Dinesen were when they were deep into their work, or than my aging friend is today. But neither will I ever be more alive than I am right now. There’s no reason not write something, however imperfect.

My birthday gift to myself is to publish this post without editing*: FTF.     (This is a lie; I tweaked a bit.)

Is putting a question at the end a requirement? Write whatever the hell you want in the comments.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

December 6, 2011 at 4:14 am

Happy birthday to you, TP. I’m sending good thoughts out into the universe in your honor.

I really like this post, and I hope you didn’t tweak it too much. (I could never have tried to give myself such a gift. I’m a bit compulsive about my own tweaking.) I think your writing is lovely.


Tulasi-Priya December 6, 2011 at 4:21 am

Thank you, darling. I am an über-compulsive tweaker. But I need to develop other skills right now as a writer, such as speed and detachment. Otherwise nothing will get done timely.


Averil Dean December 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

Ahhh. Look at all those lyrical, wonderful words. If only mine came out so fluently, sans-tweak. (Or sans ubertweak, anyway.) You’ve got style, baby.

Also, I learned about nine new things in this one post. Maybe you should consider your role as teacher, which I believe suits you to a tee.


MacDougalStreetBaby December 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I like what you wrote over at Averil’s. Fluency first, then form. Blogs are wonderful to this end. I look at my own as a sort of short exercise in writing. I wake up every morning without an alarm, my only intention to get to my keyboard. I have no idea what’s going to come out of me until I’m there but it’s the process of being there, in that moment, that has hooked me. In fact, I think showing up at my computer is very similar to showing up to one’s yoga mat. It’s just you and your expression. Everything else goes by the wayside.

Happy Birthday, you. And what a beautiful day it is.


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